Focal Points in Public Policy

With Justin Tucker, now forthcoming at Review of Policy Research:

Numerous studies argue that law affects behavior “expressively” – such as when states create focal points that overcome the coordination difficulties firms face. We argue that governments help firms overcome coordination dilemmas by explicating a preferred strategy for firms weighing investment in voluntary regulation. Firms would prefer to coordinate on a common strategy as a way of reducing the costs of voluntary regulation and increasing its benefits. We test our hypothesis about the efficacy of focal point selection with the European Union’s advocacy of the Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) over a rival environmental management system, ISO 14001. EU nations have statistically significantly lower rates of ISO 14001 certification than comparable countries at least in part due to their advocacy of EMAS. These results emphasize the role the state plays in coordinating business behavior even when such policy is simply expressive.

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Political Polarization Limits Corruption

With David Brown of Colorado and Michael Touchton of Boise State, this paper is now available from World Development. What we say in this paper:

Efforts to explain corruption have increased dramatically in recent years. The interest stems from the increasing weight economists assign to corruption when explaining economic growth. A great deal of the research focuses on how political institutions influence perceptions of corruption. We move this debate in a new direction by addressing a previously ignored dimension: ideological polarization. We contend perceptions of corruption are determined not only by specific institutional features of the political system—such as elements of voting systems, ballot structures, or separation of powers—but by who sits at the controls. We employ panel data from a broad variety of countries to test our theoretical argument. Contrary to recent findings by both economists and political scientists, we show that ideological polarization predicts perceptions of corruption.


Accountability and the NCLB

With Vasil Jaiani, now appearing in Quality Assurance in Education:

We examine the policy process that lead to the passage of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in the United States and the Bush Administration’s role in this process. We first describe the NCLB Act and focus on its major provisions and implementation. We then focus on how the Bush Administration helped create the opportunity to pass the NCLB Act by building coalitions, and how public opinion affected the evolution of the policy process. Finally, we describe how policy ideas like the concept of “accountability” shaped the policy process, and both inspired and constrained the Bush Administration.